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Principles of estate planning help set the contours of the plan

Estate planning in California is not a difficult process, but it should be done under the guidance of an experienced attorney and a qualified financial planner where appropriate. The risks of mistakes and the erroneous adoption of incorrect provisions taken from the internet are too great. This article shares some important points to keep in mind about the importance and structure of estate planning devices. 

One’s estate will include a last will and testament and in many instances living trusts. There are also testamentary trusts that may be included in the will itself. Trusts are useful for tax savings in some circumstances, and the living trust can be used to avoid probate and keep ones finances private during life and after death. In both wills and trusts, the maker will designate one or more beneficiaries. Always provide for contingent beneficiaries in case there are unexpected circumstances.

A letter of intent is a more informal document that the will maker may draw up to assist the executor and other immediate family members. The letter of intent does not have the force of law similar to a will or a trust. It serves, however, to provide a number of factual details, locations of accounts and other matters that may be expected to crop up. Little details not generally included in the will are perfectly contained within the letter of intent.

The power of attorney is well-established as an integral part of the estate planning package. It becomes effective when and if the maker becomes incapable of handling his or her own affairs. Without it, one’s immediate family will have to go into court and request the appointment of a conservator or guardian of the incompetent individual. This can be a costly process that may turn into a regular charge for many months or years. Consulting with a California estate planning attorney is the most effective thing that one can do to move the process along with maximum efficiency and legal compliance.